The international Nigerian artist Rema was supposed to have a one-time concert Thursday night, but it has been postponed to Friday evening.
Outcry is coming from the African Israeli community, which make up much of his following in the country. Many keep the Sabbath and live outside of Jerusalem, meaning getting to the venue will be impossible on Friday night. His management team says changes had to be made in the safety system of the show.
The Nigerian artist will hit the stage with 15 other singers, rappers, and dancers for a one-time live performance that is being billed as more of a big dance party than your traditional seated concert. Israel is the last stop on Rema’s world tour, which has been running since May.
The 23-year-old Divine Ikubor (his given name) has risen to the top of the charts for his song “Calm Down,” released in 2022 both as a solo and then again with American acting-singing sensation Selena Gomez. Her star power likely helped Rema’s song to peak at Number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 list after it came out, and at Number 1 on the Billboard Hot International list.
It remained the leading Afrobeats song in the US for just under a year. The song appeared on the album Rave and Roses, which was the first-ever African album to break 1 billion streams on Spotify.
Bringing modern African music to the world
Rema has worked with other internationally recognized artists like Drake, Becky G, Skepta, and Ariana Grande. His works are strongly impacting the emergence of modern African music on the global stage.
In 2021, Rema announced he would be calling his music “Afrorave” to more appropriately identify his sub-genre of Afrobeats, which weaves Arabian, Indian, and electronic sounds into the music. His strong fan base, having adopted the concept, calls themselves “Ravers.”
As the world makes space for Afrobeats on dance floors and radio stations, so too does Israel. The genre has a strong following in Israel, reflected by the fact that tickets for the show are almost entirely sold out.
Jerusalem-based dance teacher Chaya Lev, who teaches African dance to women of all ages and religions, often uses Rema’s music as a foundational entry point for those who come to her classes.
Lev hails from California, but feels connected to her Nigerian roots. The Rema enthusiast says this is a “huge” moment for Israel and is adamant that it be recognized as a break-out moment for the state.
Referencing the top name (Burna Boy) in the Afrobeats game, Lev said “We need this in Israel. Burna Boy is not coming to Israel. It’s very important Rema is doing this because not a lot of African artists come here. We have so many Israelis who are connected to this music depending on their family’s Diaspora experience.”
While Lev reports some smaller Afrobeats singers have come to give shows in Israel, Rema’s name recognition and celebrity is significant.
Special guests for the show include the Israeli-African artist Ofek Adenak, who makes Afrobeats music in Hebrew. His following of 50k+ on Instagram shows just how interested the Israeli public is in Afrobeats. Other special performers will join Rema for the “parry” (as he calls it) like Coco, Gurfi ft. Meshmoney, Elevata E, Lil KK, and Re’em Bakal, along with a dance performance by Issa Vibe Family and a pop-up African showcase.
The party won’t stop when Rema finishes his 15-song set list. There’s going to be a special after-party by Kore Dada and Jahel New Zion among others. Tickets start at NIS 219, with Golden Ring entrance costing NIS 399.